Design & DIY

How to choose the right decking material

how to choose the right deck material

Your goals for your new deck are simple. You want a place where you can relax, entertain guests, and soak up the sun during our too-short long weekends. Most of all, you want to replace that old, warped splinterfest that’s rotting beneath your Birkenstocks. But whereas your goals may be simple, choosing the right deck material for your needs can be a complicated endeavour. To make the process easier, we’ve broken down the three favourite choices of cottagers, so you can determine which one best meets your specific requirements for cost, upkeep, and overall appearance.

Pressure-treated wood

If you’ve been to a cottage, chances are you’ve stood (or lounged) on a deck made of pressure-treated lumber. Its durability and low cost make it a cottage-country standby. Even though it will require some annual maintenance that can include washing, sanding, and resealing depending on use and weather, it can easily last three decades when carefully maintained. When purchasing, opt for “choice” or “premium” boards, as they’ll have straighter grain and fewer knots, and they’ll be less likely to warp.

Pros: Least expensive option, resistant to weather and abuse

Cons: Requires some upkeep, can vary in quality

Use it if: You want an inexpensive, durable deck that will last decades.



Most cottagers love the look of natural wood, which makes cedar a solid choice for your new deck. It’s more costly than pressure-treated wood, but because cedar doesn’t absorb much moisture, it’s highly rot resistant and unlikely to warp. That said, it will be more likely to rot if used on the ground level or in shady areas, where moisture is more prevalent. Although cedar starts its life with a warm, rich look, it will fade in a decade or so—particularly in Canada’s multi-season climate. To keep that rich colour, you’ll need to clean and reseal your deck every couple of years. Cedar also tends to be softer than pressure-treated wood, so the edges of your boards may start to look weathered, depending on how rough you are on your deck.

Pros: natural colour, highly resistant to rot, boards lie flat and straight

Cons: requires maintenance to retain colour, softer than pressure-treated wood

Use it if: You love the look of natural wood and don’t mind a little upkeep.


Composite decking

Known as “composite” or “PVC lumber,” this wood alternative boasts minimal maintenance, with no need for sanding, staining, or painting. It’s one of the most expensive options for a new deck, but the material makes up for the cost with its extreme weather resistance. Though diehard wood lovers might argue that it lacks the natural je ne sais quoi of real wood, it comes in a variety of colours and finishes, and you can even opt for non-slip surfaces. Keep in mind, though, that even though it’s considered a “wood alternative,” composite decking usually contains some wood—most are a blend of recycled materials like wood chips, sawdust, and plastic. Unlike wood, however, composite won’t rot or splinter, and you can use every inch of what you buy, since it won’t contain wood’s inherent defects. The material can be prone to mildew, so you may need to spray it down occasionally, but for the most part, it’s maintenance free.

Pros: very little maintenance, multiple finishes available

Cons: expensive, requires special fasteners

Use it if: You’d rather spend your time lounging on your deck than maintaining it.